Paging Dr Cluck

What do bread crumbs and compost have in common? Hint: in one end, out the other.
David Morris, owner of the Bread Garden on Berkeley’s Domingo Street, says his main garden task is whacking things back. That’s because his chickens, varying in number from eight to twelve, provide him with an average of 500 pounds of manure a year. Morris feeds them with crumbs generated by the bread-slicing machine at his store. Occasionally an employee might drop a roll on the floor, and these too go to the chickens. But never the pastries, Morris told a rapt audience of 30 people — those heart-cloggers contain too much fat and sugar.
The Ecology Center puts on about 20 classes a year, ranging from drip irrigation to seed-saving. This was the first time for “Chickens in the City,” and there was so much interest that late-comers had to stand.
Attendees fell into two categories: those with a great deal of experience who came to meet others afflicted with the chicken habit, and neophytes who hoped to get a grounding in avian culture. Both groups got their needs met. Much information was shared, such as which breeds perform best in backyard situations (Morris keeps australorps) and how to build a coop that will work for you and defeat the most determined raccoon.
Besides providing all that good fertilizer, chickens may contribute to your health. Morris described a German study that compares the immune systems of children growing up in the city to those in the country. Preliminary results suggest that city children are too clean — we all need exposure to barnyard animals and their microbes in order to build up our resistance to disease. Dogs and cats don’t count. Says Morris: “My next-door neighbor thanks me for helping to build up his kids’ immune systems.”

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